Trump to tighten screws on Pak, drone strikes on cards

news
20 June 2017

President Donald Trump's administration is planning to harden its approach towards Pakistan to crackdown on flourishing terrorism in the region that has led to a slew of attacks on Afghanistan, reports Reuters.

Top US officials have confirmed that the US government plans to crackdown on terrorists in Pakistan, according to the news agency.

Potential Trump administration responses being discussed include expanding US drone strikes, redirecting or withholding some aid to Pakistan and perhaps eventually downgrading Pakistan's status as a major non-NATO ally, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Some US officials, however, are sceptical of the prospects for success, arguing that years of previous US efforts to curb Pakistan's support for militant groups have failed, and that strengthening US ties to India, Pakistan's arch-enemy, undermine chances of a breakthrough with Islamabad.

The administration is about to finish a regional review of the strategy guiding the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan. The White House and Pentagon declined to comment on the review before its completion. Pakistan's embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

"The United States and Pakistan continue to partner on a range of national security issues," Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said.

But the discussions alone suggest a shift toward a more assertive approach to address safe havens in Pakistan that have been blamed for in part helping turn Afghanistan's war into an intractable conflict, the report suggests.

Experts on America's longest war argue that militant safe havens in Pakistan have allowed Taliban-linked insurgents a place to plot deadly strikes in Afghanistan and regroup after ground offensives.

The Trump administration in recent weeks has put more emphasis on the relationship with Islamabad in discussions as it hammers out a the regional strategy to be presented to Trump by mid-July, nearly six months after he took office, one official said.

"We've never really fully articulated what our strategy towards Pakistan is. The strategy will more clearly say what we want from Pakistan specifically," the US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Other US officials warn of divisions within the government about the right approach and question whether any mix of carrots and sticks can get Islamabad to change its behaviour. At the end of the day, Washington needs a partner, even if an imperfect one, in nuclear-armed Pakistan, they say.

The United States is again poised to deploy thousands more troops in Afghanistan, an acknowledgment that US-backed forces are not winning and Taliban militants are resurgent.

"I believe there will be a much harder U.S. line on Pakistan going forward than there has been in the past," Hamdullah Mohib, the Afghan ambassador to the United States, told Reuters, without citing specific measures under review.

Kabul has long been critical of Pakistan's role in Afghanistan.

Pakistan fiercely denies allowing any militants safe haven on its territory. It bristles at US claims that Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, has ties to Haqqani network militants blamed for some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan.





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